Learning about storytelling at the 2022 Convention

Breakout session in Houston
Participants at the 2022 Rotary International Convention in Houston, Texas, listen to tips on storytelling at one of many informative breakout sessions.

By Randy Bretz, Rotary Club of Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

I was seated in a breakout session at the 2022 Rotary International Convention in Houston, Texas, USA, with about 200 other attendees ready to learn about story telling. I had come to the convention along with about 11,000 other members from around the world to learn and be inspired. And merely looking around the room gave we inspiration to see the diversity of nations represented.

A few minutes in, we were informed that the speaker would be unable to present. But that did not hinder this room full of creative and innovative People of Action. After taking a few seconds to confer with their neighbors, three people near the front of the room volunteered to lead the session. A round of applause broke out as they stepped up to the presentation table.

Shirley Weddle, a Rotary member from North Texas and Charter President of an e-club, Bob Wiltfong, club President of the Ponte Vedra, Florida club and Amanda Beadles of Chillicothe, Illinois proceeded to lead a seminar that resulted in a number of valuable guidelines for us to follow. As the hour-long seminar unfolded, we heard from dozens of folks with stories of their own from around the world.

Wiltfong, a former broadcast newsman, suggested following the journalism standard of being sure to include who, what, where, when and why in your stories. He also urged storytellers to be specific when telling their stories, details make all the difference. Then he went on to talk about guidelines to use when recording audio and/or video to share. One of the most important points, in my mind, was to keep stories short and to the point with a call to action. He concluded by suggesting that we let the story do the selling.

The three impromptu seminar coordinators invited us to share our insight into stories, or to tell a story of our own. A woman from Poland stepped to the microphone and talked about moving from New York to Louisiana and feeling disconnected. Joining Rotary helped her establish connections and feel more at home.

A gentleman from Zimbabwe talked about moving to Washington, D.C. In late 2020, even during the COVID pandemic, participating in Rotary was a great way for him to meet new people, to feel welcome in a new country.

Weddle, one of the impromptu leaders, talked about her bold step to establish an eRotary club focused on suicide prevention and brain health. Her club meets virtually twice each month and helps foster understanding of the issues leading to suicide and steps that can be taken to mitigate those issues.

A fellow from Texas shared how his club produced a video to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the club and how it had helped recruit new members. “People take action based on their emotions, and our video showed the good connections we have in our club.”

Amanda Beadles from Illinois used the acronym CAUSE to illustrate how storytelling could be beneficial in Rotary.

I walked out of the room fully inspired, not just about storytelling, but about Rotary. The three who volunteered as impromptu leaders, those who stepped forward to share their suggestions and stories, and certainly all of us in that room saw Rotary in action. What’s more, we witnessed inspiring people of action who connected and gave us all a story to tell about what we gained at Rotary International Convention in 2022.

Sharpen your leadership skills, get inspired with new ideas, and learn from others at a breakout session in Melbourne, Australia, 27-31 May 2023. Register before 15 December for the early-registration discount. Find resources for telling your story in the newly improved Brand Center.

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